Let’s talk about interrogation techniques, shall we? Let’s imagine there’s a tiny yet vital piece of information in your four-year-old’s brain that you need to extract—say, the location of his shoes. Now, if you’re dealing with a mentally-stable, hormonally-balanced, not-diabolically-possessed person who’s at least passingly-competent in your language, you might simply ask, “Where are your shoes?” But a four-year-old is none of those things. A four-year-old will respond to direct questioning by tapping a finger against his lips in a simulacrum of reflective thought, then giving an answer that (33% of the time) doesn’t make sense, contextually. Puppy, where are your shoes? Hmmm… Raining. Sometimes, (56% of the time) the answer will be merely unhelpful: They’re somewhere in the house… (more finger tapping) or outside the house. Invariably, the answer will be wrong. (With maybe a .3% lucky-guess correct response rate).
So how do you get at that little fact your four-year-old has squirreled away? I’m telling you right now you can rule out the what-were-you-doing-when line of questioning. Four-year-olds are insensitive to the passage of time. Anything that happened to Puppy before this exact moment that we’re in right now happened when he was three. When Puppy goes to bed tonight and wakes up tomorrow morning, it’ll still be today. This is what I mean:
Clearly, time-based questions are futile. Though, there’s a flavor of chronological interrogation that I will employ from time-to-time—not because it’s successful, but because I’m desperate. I call it attempted-hypnotism, and this is how it plays out in our house:
Puppy, remember when you were riding your bike in the driveway, after nap? Uh-huh. And you were wearing your shoes? Uh-huh. And you came inside through the garage, right? Yep. And you took off your shoes—remember that? Nods head. Where did you put them? My hands were cold on the bike and I needed my gloves with the spiders on them, but if I eat the nola [granola] bar with my gloves on, the crumbs stick to the gloves. Mommy, why is it cold outside? Because it’s springtime in Seattle, honey. When you came in for the granola bar, did you take off your shoes? I already had the nola bar; I came in for the gloves. Okay, and did you take off your shoes? Why? Because they’re missing. Just like the dune buggy is missing!*
Other interrogation techniques I’ve tried:
- The philosophical approach: Puppy, if you were a pair of lost shoes, where would you be?
- The ambush: Holy smokes, look at the size of that crow where did you put your shoes?!
- The sing-song subliminal: If you’re happy and you know it find your shoes—where are they!
- (I’m morally incapable of trying this one, but it’s popular in certain circles) Maternal guilt: If you loved me, you’d find your shoes.
Alas, a four-year-old’s mind is locked down tighter than a lid on a bottle of children’s suspension Advil when your baby is shrieking and your head is pounding from that third glass of wine you allowed yourself because it’s Friday and surely the kids will sleep in tomorrow but no, the baby is cutting molars beginning now. Just accept that you will not learn the location of the missing shoes from the person who last handled them.
We looked in all the logical places for a four-year-old’s shoes: the freezer (which is where the Kitten stores her socks), the garbage can (where Kitten stores her nuks), the box of Christmas ornaments shoved into the farthest reaches of our garage… The shoes simply POOF! disappeared. And now we’re taking bets as to when we’ll find them. Here’s what we’ve got so far—let me know if you’d like to wager; it’s just $5 to get in on the action:
- Husband: As soon as we buy new shoes
- intrepid librarian: When we move
- Neighbor mom with two boys: As soon as he outgrows the missing pair
* The dune buggy toy disappeared maybe two years ago, but Puppy brings it up whenever something is newly lost. He has a litany of lost things he periodically runs through: the dune buggy, the door wedge, the light-up shoes… I think it comforts him, his mantra of lost things. I should get him a dashboard-statue of the patron saint of lost things. Care to wager how long before he loses it?
Great Moments in US History
Subject change: Puppy had a play date over last weekend and the two of them, plus the boy who lives next door (who will no doubt begin to feature prominently in this blog and, thus, needs a nickname) did a little gardening. The resulting photos are mediocre in terms of composition, lighting, and focus, but they still struck a chord for me, and I think I figured out why: